Thursday, October 01, 2009

Vatican II and the Baby Boom

In the course of discussing the weird phenomenon of hippie liturgy in the 1960s, in light of this astonishing book, someone mentioned a point to me that I had never considered, one that goes some distance to explaining why young people got their way in 1965 whereas for most of human history, their demands are usually and rightly ignored by older and wiser folks.

Demographics must play some role here. The baby boom began right after World War II following the massive demographic upheaval of the war and draft. We saw an unprecedented increase in births in 1946-48, one that is off the charts in terms of the trend line.

Now you only need to ask yourself: how old were these people when the Vatican Council closed? Those born in 1948 were 17 in 1965. You can do the rest of the math. What it means is that pastors looked out at their congregations and, completely unlike today, they saw a sea of teenagers, late teens in particular. They might have been a majority. This probably accounts for all the blah blah going around at the time about the generation gap and the new generation and the age of love or whatever was going on.

It was essentially a demographic illusion that one generation believed itself to have unprecedented cultural power. In other words, this might have happened anytime in history but it so happened that it happened just at the this time, coinciding perfectly with the end of a Council that was widely believed to have changed everything.

Ok, so there's the thesis. First, surely this has been written about before and either I forgot it or didn't read the book. Second, I'm curious about what others think about this relatively simple explanation for why the Catholic world blew up?

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